In case you missed it, last year marked a significant turn in the workforce. That was when millennials—those born between the early 1980s and late 1990s—became the largest segment of employees in the nation. This boom in the millennial generation in the workplace has a significant impact on organizations, both from a management perspective and a training perspective. That’s because millennials, as a whole, have quite different ideas about the meaning and purpose of work, work-life balance, and the integration of technology than previous generations.
Training the Millennial Generation in the Workplace
Millennials approach learning and training in different ways, and that has implications not only for continuing development, but on-boarding as well. Many millennials entering the workforce tend to be well educated, but not always in business-relevant ways. When they first came out of school, the job market was slow, and so many went back to school. Now they may have one or more degrees, but they don’t necessarily know how to apply their knowledge in a business environment. Or, what they learned is school is not applicable to the field where they’re now pursuing a career.
How to Engage ‘New Learners’
The question facing sales organizations today is: “How do you train and engage these ‘new learners,’” as we call them. Millennials grew up hardwired to technology, conducting most of their social life online, and multitasking along the way. They prefer collaboration and team-oriented projects.
They learn best in a setting that’s very different from the traditional classroom, where instructor-led training was the default and primary methodology for previous generations of Gen Xers, baby boomers, and traditionalists. With millennials, delivery of instructor-led training should be in smaller increments, complemented with more social collaboration.
Millennials don’t want endless lectures, and “death by PowerPoint” should be completely off the table. What works best with millennials is using formats they’re accustomed to: gaming, social networks, mobile technology. These modalities are becoming increasingly important learning platforms. As for content, it needs to be “chunked” into manageable and relevant data so millennials not only learn, but experience learning in a way they can assimilate and gain value from.
New Training Platforms for a Multi-Generational Sales Team
With what we at Richardson have discovered about these new learners, we are introducing new platforms that capitalize on the desired modular approach. We are adapting content so it is relevant and meaningful not just for the millennial generation in the workforce, but for training a multi-generational sales team. We are developing different ways to keep all learners engaged, with a curriculum of targeted content delivered in various formats across several platforms. Underlying everything, we have an updated approach that draws on cognitive science and learning methodologies behind how we teach. This allows our facilitators to adapt how they engage learners in the classroom and reinforce what is being taught using different modalities, such as mobile devices and coaching.
Importance of Teaching Millennials to use a Consultative Dialogue
Many L&D Departments have developed their own in-house universities to cultivate their sales talent. They’re teaching the millennial generation in the workplace what they need to learn from a business perspective. Just as important, they are also addressing the social skills millennials may be lacking because a lot of their interpersonal interactions have been online, which is very different than sitting across from a client in a consultative dialogue.
Approaching Training in a Different Light
Beyond teaching the skills and behaviors required to be successful sellers, organizations also need to infuse an element of excitement and purpose, because the millennial generation in the workforce needs to feel affirmed and convinced of their purpose and the value of their contribution.
The psychology behind any good learning program needs to address the dynamics of millennials and also the greater multi-generational organization. To be successful takes looking at training in a different light, tailoring learning to the needs of the audience and meeting learners where they are in their journey.